How Israel uses Judaism as a settler-colonial weapon

Israeli Border Police near the Damacus Gate in East Jerusalem (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada  /  April 23, 2022

Since the start of Ramadan, Israel has carried out near-daily attacks on worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, the third most revered site for Muslims all over the world.

Occupation forces, for example, terrorized worshippers with an assault during dawn prayers on the second Friday of Ramadan, smashing the mosque’s stained glass windows, and injuring more than 150 people.

It’s an alarming echo of what happened last year, when Israel’s attacks triggered a full-scale confrontation between Israel and Palestinians across their historic homeland.

Resistance groups in Gaza intervened in defense of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and Israel waged an 11-day bombing campaign in Gaza that left more than 250 Palestinians, including almost 70 children, dead.

I spoke to journalist Rania Khalek for her BreakThrough News show Dispatches about how the renewed Israeli onslaught – and the Palestinian response – is regularly misrepresented as “communal religious violence” or “clashes” between two roughly equal sides.

But what lies at the heart of the Israeli attack on Al-Aqsa is its settler-colonial drive to conquer and control all of Palestine.

Growing fanaticism

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, or Haram al-Sharif, is believed by Jews to be the place where an ancient temple once stood – hence why Jews call it the Temple Mount.

Notwithstanding any Jewish religious beliefs about the site, Al-Aqsa is in occupied East Jerusalem where under international law Israel has no sovereignty or jurisdiction whatsoever.

Israel’s control arises solely from military occupation, enforced from the barrel of a gun.

In recent years, fanatical Jewish groups have increasingly defied religious edicts by Israel’s chief rabbis banning Jewish prayer at the Haram al-Sharif.

This has been driven by the so-called Temple Movement, a Jewish nationalist push to take over the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and build a new Jewish temple there.

In 1990, a Jewish extremist group called Temple Mount Faithful announced plans to lay a cornerstone for their new temple at the Haram al-Sharif. When Palestinians protested, Israeli occupation forces massacred more than a dozen of them and injured scores more.

Although Israel has attempted to assert control over the site ever since it occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, the fanatical Jewish movement has in recent years become increasingly mainstream, gaining the support of many Israeli politicians.

A dangerous precedent

Palestinians fear, at the very least, that Israel will forcibly partition the holy site, as it did to the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, following the massacre by American Jewish settler Baruch Goldstein of 29 Palestinian men and boys during Ramadan prayers.

Not only did Israel partition the Ibrahimi Mosque, but it forced Palestinians out of much of the once bustling Old City of Hebron, effectively turning it over to the control of the settlers.

It should not be lost on anyone that one of the most prominent Jewish figures agitating for Israeli control of Al-Aqsa today, lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, views Baruch Goldstein as a hero.

Following a recent incursion at the Al-Aqsa compound under heavy protection by Israeli police, Ben-Gvir declared, “whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the Land of Israel. The enemy understands this too.”

Earlier this week, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the chief preacher at Al-Aqsa, posted on Twitter a video of Jewish settlers dancing and singing inside Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque.

“The whole world must know that in Jerusalem we will not allow what happened in the Ibrahimi Mosque to be repeated in the place where the Prophet ascended to Heaven [Al-Aqsa], no matter what the cost,” Sabri stated.

This reflects the consensus among Palestinians that only their resistance on the ground can prevent an Israeli takeover of Al-Aqsa.

As I told Khalek, this critical context is almost always left out by the mainstream media, if they bother to report on Israel’s attacks on Al-Aqsa at all.

At its heart the situation in Palestine is not a religious conflict, but rather a struggle by the indigenous Palestinians to survive and resist the settler-colonial takeover of their land by Zionism, a violent colonial movement founded in Europe.

Zionism and the settler-colonial state it created have always been ready to weaponize Judaism as a pretext to conquer the land of the Palestinians.

Whitewashing Nazis

Khalek and I also discussed the glaring contrast between how Western governments respond to Israel’s violence against Palestinians as compared with their reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

We discussed many aspects of that double standard, including one of the most disturbing: In order to justify sending weapons to Ukraine and escalating the war there, even a prominent Jewish communal and Israel lobby group is whitewashing Nazis and denying and revising key facts about the Holocaust.

You can watch our entire discussion in the video here:

How Israel uses Judaism as a settler-colonial weapon | The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)